SKY News, The Dalley Edition Interview with Helen Dalley

Release Date: 
30 November 2015
Transcript
E&OE

HELEN DALLEY:
Another tranche of the anti-terror legislation, the national security legislation, which strips dual nationals of their Australian citizenship. Will that be passed this week with Labor’s support?

ALAN TUDGE:
It will be. This is a very important piece of legislation because what it will do is cancel the citizenship of dual nationals who engage in terrorist activities or support terrorists.

In some respects, this is updating our existing treason laws, if you like. Whereas the treason laws applied to an individual who was fighting or supporting a foreign nation state against Australia, this obviously applies to terrorists if you are fighting or supporting them.

HELEN DALLEY:
[inaudible] now only attempt to strip the citizenship of terrorists who have actually been convicted, not just those who are suspected of terrorism which was in the original legislation. Is that right?

ALAN TUDGE:
Yes that is correct. People who are supporting or who are actively fighting for terrorist causes will automatically have their citizenship cancelled. In that way, it is exactly the same as what occurs presently if you are fighting for a foreign country against Australia.

Now of course that will still be reviewable as it is presently, but the bottom line is if you conduct that activity, if you support a terrorist cause against our interests and you are dual national, you will have that Australian citizenship cancelled.

HELEN DALLEY:
So how many of these sorts of people do you think will be affected by this particular legislation?

ALAN TUDGE:
This is very difficult to assess and I will leave that to the Immigration Minister to make that determination.

HELEN DALLEY:
I think last time when we were talking about this issue, the various Ministers were saying, possibly really just a couple of dozen?

ALAN TUDGE:
That may well be the case, but it is a very important principle nevertheless and hopefully it will have the effect of sending a very clear message to people that your Australian citizenship means something. If you do this, we will cancel it. Full stop.

HELEN DALLEY:
But that change was literally forced on you, the Joint Committee said they really need to be terrorists who have been convicted, not just people who are suspected of being engaged.

ALAN TUDGE:
This has been a long process to go through this and we have got the Labor Party’s support for it now, so it will become law as a result.

It is an automatic thing, Helen, so that if you do conduct terrorist activities you will have your citizenship cancelled if indeed you are a dual national.

HELEN DALLEY:
How many fighters who have been fighting with IS, the government has been telling us there are a number of them, how many have returned to Australia?

ALAN TUDGE:
That is a good question. I do not know that figure off the top of my head. We have had many dozens of people who have gone abroad to fight with IS. If we know about them and they return to Australia, they will be arrested when they return to Australia.

HELEN DALLEY:
Do you know of any that have been arrested? What I wanted to ask you was what is their status? How were they let back in? We’ve already had the ability to have their passports confiscated. Why were these people allowed to come back?

ALAN TUDGE:
Again, I’ll let Peter Dutton the Immigration Minister deal with those questions. But basically if you are an Australian citizen then you cannot be rendered stateless by cancelling your Australian passport.

If you can take their passport before they leave the country, of course we will endeavor to do that. If they have left the country and they try to return to Australia, having been in Syria fighting with ISIS, then they will be arrested when they return at the airport.

HELEN DALLEY:
But you cannot tell us how many of those people have been arrested, have returned, are in jail, awaiting trial, all those things that your government talked about some months ago, you do not know any of those numbers?

ALAN TUDGE:
I just do not know those numbers off the top of my head, Helen, at this particular point in time but I am sure the Immigration Minister will be able to inform you.

HELEN DALLEY:
Are there some who have actually been arrested?

ALAN TUDGE:
Again, I will just leave those details to the Immigration Minister. I am not the Immigration Minister. I do not want to give you incorrect information here and I will just leave it to him to inform you of that.

HELEN DALLEY:
Alright Alan Tudge, I wanted to ask you, do you think we have already or we are in danger of forgetting too quickly about those innocent victims, mainly young French people, who were brutally murdered by IS extremists in the heart of Paris? What more can Australia do? What are we going to do to help France fight and combat IS?

ALAN TUDGE:
I don’t think we’re forgetting them too early and indeed there’s a debate going on right now in our Australian Parliament which is talking about this particular issue. Many of the world leaders have made quite moving statements while they’re over in Paris commemorating the people who have lost their lives.

We won’t forget them. It was an atrocity and we have to learn the lessons from it. We’ve already got a very active contribution in Syria to try and degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Our contribution happens to be the second largest contribution in the world following the United States who of course is the lead government there.

We are making a difference there already. The land mass which they have control of has contracted but of course we’ll be closely discussing with our allies on an ongoing basis as to what more may be able to be done.

HELEN DALLEY:
You’re Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister. Malcolm Turnbull just met all those world leaders. He is going to meet more this week. Is he putting pressure on them for a political outcome which is what he said is the answer?

ALAN TUDGE:
I’m sure there’ll be discussions in the sidelines of the Paris conference which touch on security matters. The main cause of the Paris Conference is to reach an agreement in relation to our 2030 global emission reduction target. The nature of these conferences and these meetings is that there are inevitably bilateral discussions at the margins if you like and I’m sure that security issues will come up in those.

HELEN DALLEY:
I do want to change the tempo and the domestic economy. Deloitte Access Economics, they put out a report that says we have both a revenue and a spending problem, even though Treasurer Scott Morrison has been busily denying one side of that problem saying we don’t have a revenue problem. He’s been denying the obvious hasn’t he, now pointed out by Access Economics?

ALAN TUDGE:
I don’t think he has because when you look at the figures and compare it to the ten year average, on the expenditure side we’re actually well above the average expenditure figure as a percentage of GDP. In fact our expenditure levels are still up near where they were at GFC times.

On the revenue side we’re actually where we have been as far as the ten year average goes. Just looking at those two figures alone does suggest that our expenditure is too high rather than our revenue as a percentage of GDP is too low.

HELEN DALLEY:
Well economist Chris Richardson says if not much is done on revenue raising as well as spending cuts we are looking at endless deficits.

ALAN TUDGE:
I read those comments from Chris Richardson and I’ve seen the report he’s put out today. We’ll be updating our budget figures next month in December after we’ve received the national account figures.

Yes the budget is in a difficult position but we are getting on top of it. Next year will be the peak of net debt as a percentage of GDP and after that it will actually start to decline. We’ve already got through about $60 billion worth of budget repair measures through the Parliament. There’s another $17 billion, by the way, which are sitting in the Senate right now. This was also mentioned in Chris Richardson’s report.

If the Labor Party were more cooperative…

HELEN DALLEY:
Do you reject what he’s saying about we are looking at endless deficits and he’s saying they didn’t even use the worst case scenario.

ALAN TUDGE:
Again you’ll see our updated budget figures next month after we’ve received our national account data. If you go back to the last set of figures that we put out which was the May Budget, what it did show was a gradual decline of the budget deficit over the next four or five years getting very close down to zero.

We are doing everything we possibly can to get the budget under control. We’re not getting any help from the Labor Party.

We are making progress. As I said, next year will be the peak figure in terms of net debt as a percentage of GDP and then after that it will come down because of the budget repair measures that we’ve put in place.

The most important part of that Helen, and this goes to our fundamental budget repair strategy, the most important element is keeping your expenditure growth down. If you’re expenditure growth is below what your GDP growth is, then over time your budget deficit comes down and you start to pay back your debt. That lies at the heart of our budget repair strategy. That’s why we’re so determined to keep spending growth down, that’s why we’re so determined to grow the economy to create jobs and also to fix the budget.

HELEN DALLEY:
Yet despite what you are saying, Alan Tudge, Scott Morrison is now saying he does not want to be locked into return to surplus pronouncements after the Coalition for some years has promised a return to surplus.

ALAN TUDGE:
We will get back to surplus. But we have been very careful about not giving a hard timeline as to when that would be. Joe Hockey did not, Scott Morrison has not. In the May budget, you could see the figure was getting very close back to surplus in about year four or five. We will have our updated figures next month and it will reveal what our updated figures are; including what the forward years look like.

HELEN DALLEY:
Alright, you are also Assistant Minister for Social Services so I want to get onto the childcare revamp and issues arising out of that. Now the Government wants to get this passed, but you are coming up against some concerns and one of those is, why are families earning over $340,000 a year still going to receive tax payer subsidies for some of their childcare costs?

ALAN TUDGE:
Let me explain what we have done, in essence, if you are earning a lot of money you will only get a very small subsidy. If you are earning very little money…

HELEN DALLEY:
… But why any?

ALAN TUDGE:
… you get a very significant subsidy.

HELEN DALLEY:
Why should the wealthiest get any tax payer subsidy? If you are earning over $340,000 a year, that is a lot of money.

ALAN TUDGE:
The same principle applies when you go to a public school and you are a wealthy individual or if you go to a public hospital and you are a wealthy individual. You get free healthcare regardless of what your wealth is. You get free schooling regardless of your wealth. Up until these measures, you got a very similar childcare subsidy regardless of your wealth. We have actually changed these measures to put a lot more emphasis in supporting middle income Australian families and diminishing the rebate and the subsidies which higher income earners get. However, everybody gets an element of subsidy, the largest beneficiaries are those with very little money, the smallest beneficiaries are those with large amounts of money.

HELEN DALLEY:
Alright, I did want to ask you quickly about Senator Nick Xenophon’s point. He has some concerns asking, why a young mum with three kids will have her overall family payments reduced to help pay for subsidies to wealthier families earning over $250,000. He says that is not fair. He’s got a point, hasn’t he?

ALAN TUDGE:
That is not the case. In fact, the subsidies of the wealthier families are coming down; the subsidies for the middle income families is going up…

HELEN DALLEY:
I know but I think he was referring to family tax benefits coming down.

ALAN TUDGE:
We are making some changes to family tax benefits and we have been very open and upfront about that. The most important element of that is amending the eligibility for what is called Family Tax Benefit Part B. What we have done is, instead of having that available right up until your child turns 16 or 18, instead, you will only get that up until your child turns 13 years of age. Why did we pick that age? In part, because that is when your child goes to secondary school and that is when, as a parent, you have got more capacity to be able to go back to the workforce. Hence, you may need that Family Tax Benefit less, compared to if your children are still of very early ages, when it is much more difficult for you to get back to the workforce.

We have been responsible here Helen, we know that if you are going to invest very significantly in the childcare system, and we are, you have to find savings from somewhere else. This goes back to the previous debate we were just having about the budget repair effort. You can’t just continue to spend money without finding savings elsewhere. That is what we have done here. We have found some savings, we are using that savings and we are applying it into the childcare system.

HELEN DALLEY:
Alright, we will have to leave it there. Alan Tudge, thanks so much for joining us, it was good to have you on the program.

ALAN TUDGE:
Thanks so much Helen.